03 October 2016
Greetings from "the Blue Lagoon" off Nanuya Island in the Yasawa chain on Fiji's west side. Almost every country we've been to in the South Pacific has a "Blue Lagoon" but apparently this THE Blue Lagoon where Brooke Shields paraded in a very tiny bikini about 30 years for a very tacky movie by the same name- sadly we don't have that in our movie collection.... Sniff, sniff.
Since leaving "Paradise" (the resort on Taveuni where we stayed for two weeks), we have worked our way slowly west to the western most part of Fiji and are now heading south. We spent three busy days in Savusavu picking up some food, going to the market, catching up with friends, hiking and eating- a lot of eating. Savusavu has a large Indian population with several fabulous Indian restaurants. We learned when asked how hot we wanted a dish, "hot" was not an edible answer, for us at least- "tourist hot" was, provided we had a stash of napkins to mop up our noses and eyes. After Savusavu, we sailed about 20 miles south to Namena, a tiny island marine preserve which is world famous as a diving site- and is a pretty awesome snorkeling site! There are fringing reefs all around the island some spectacular "bombies" (pillars if you will) that rise up 100 feet or so from the bottom. Beautiful hard and soft corals and zillions of fish... We vowed to return next year when we're in Fiji- with dive equipment.
After three days of being in the water, and with pruny skin, we moved onto Bua Bay (a quick overnight stop) on the southwest coast of Vanua Levu where we caught up with friends we hadn't seen since Tahiti. We have been sailing with "Do Over" for at least ten days now and are loving sailing in their company! The next day we headed off to the east coast of Yadua island, about 25 miles away, and anchored in a spectacular bay. We went ashore to the village to introduce ourselves to the chief and do "sevusevu" (a formal way of asking permission to come onto the chief's lands, including the surrounding water, by offering a gift of kava). The people on Yadua have to be the friendliest people on the planet. We were greeted at the beach by a gang of kids eager to help us get the dinghy ashore then we were lead, in a parade, to the chief's representative's home (the chief was off the island somewhere). The representative's wife invited us to come to lunch the next day, after church, an offer we couldn't refuse.
We got to church early the next day and seated ourselves off to one side, about in the middle. The minister greeted us and asked if we'd like to sit up front and in the middle- no thank you...Well, perhaps we should have listened to him because as it happened, the church is segregated by gender- and we were smack in the middle of the men's section. AWKWARD. Yes, I have a new appreciation for how difficult it can be to be a visitor to a new church. The only word of the service we understood was "Amen" but the singing was otherworldly- it didn't matter that we didn't understand a word of what they sang. As services go, it was a short one, only an hour and a half. Lunch was a much longer affair. Yadua has no roads, electricity, or running water; many of the homes are woven from grasses, cooking is done over an open fire, and people have very little, if any, furniture in their homes. Cell service is spotty at best and there's no internet access on the island. Yet the hospitality and kindness showered on us that day (and the next when we returned with some fishing supplies and food)were unimaginable. We ate a delicious lunch (seated on the floor) of smoked fish (cooked in fresh coconut milk), taro (a super starchy "potato", the staple of their diet) and some breadfruit. Four generations of this family were present for the meal and we learned a lot about life on Yadua from these wonderful people. What little income they have is from fishing and growing taro and coconuts. The closest doctor/medical facility is an hour a half boat ride away (in good conditions) and the school goes up through the 8th grade- at which time kids go to the "mainland" of Fiji and board there for months at a time. We felt like we had fallen through a crack in time and ended up in the 19th century- except for the few boats with engines on them, it easily could have been. When we returned the next day, the reception was overwhelming- just about everyone invited us to come in for lunch, or to come back for dinner and we had a gaggle of kids in tow. "Kate" is apparently a fun (and easy) name to say, and to remember. It's the closest we'll ever come to feeling like rockstars.
We hiked around the island, snorkeled, and completed a few boat projects while we waited for the winds to change then we sailed off to Yasawa Island, about 50 miles west of Yadua. The beach at "Champagne Bay" is one of the loveliest we've seen and the island has a lot of super hiking. We visited two different villages there on the island and walked into a super fancy resort. Dirty, hot sailors were not the kind of guests they had in mind and the manager hustled us out- their hospitality in stark contrast to that in the villages. In Bukama, the largest village, we again attracted a gaggle of kids (and I didn't even have my customary bag of candy and pencils to hand out). One of the boys, upon hearing that we were from the United States asked Steve; "are you Captain America?!". He was somewhat disappointed when Steve replied, "no," but he followed it up with, "Do you know Captain America?". "I know of him," Steve said and Sula agreed that that was "very good". Love it.
We're starting to keep our eyes on weather systems coming off Australia now in preparation for the 1200 mile sail to New Zealand toward the end of this month. Thankfully we are sailing with a lot of people who are also heading that direction so we are learning a lot from talking with them! We completed our absentee ballots this morning and are not missing the election coverage one tiny bit!